After last week’s horrific incident in which a Las Vegas-area range master was killed when a 9-year-old child lost control of a Mini-Uzi, the usual suspects are crying out to Keep Guns Away From Our Children! A strong argument can certainly be made that full-auto firearms aren’t suitable for young children, just as one shouldn’t hand a .500 S&W Magnum to a 95-pound cheerleader with no shooting experience. But that certainly doesn’t mean that guns and kids can never mix.
Dan Baum, who was introduced to shooting at summer camp when he was a kid, waxes poetic about the benefits of the shooting sports for kids in this Time piece. Baum writes:
Invite a child to learn how to shoot and the message is: I trust your ability to listen and learn. I trust your ability to concentrate. I welcome you into a dangerous adult activity because you are sensible and trustworthy. For young people accustomed to being constrained, belittled, ignored and told “no,” hearing an adult call them to their higher selves can be enormously empowering. Children come away from properly conducted shooting lessons as different people, taller in their shoes and more willing to tune into what adults say.
I live in a state where more people own guns than not, and where children are often introduced to shooting at young ages. My 16-year-old son, whom I refer to on the LGC forums as CousinCarlFan, is but one of a plethora of Wyoming kids who shoot. Many of the kids his age have been shooting since they were 9 or 10. CousinCarlFan came a bit late to shooting – I think he was 12 when I first took him shooting – but he enjoys shooting.
Parents here take their kids to the range and make sure the kids know the Four Rules. Kids here shoot under close supervision. 4-H clubs here offer firearms instruction. Kids typically start out with air guns or with .22 rifles – small single-shot rifles like the Crickett or Rascal, or – for bigger kids – smallish semi-autos like the Ruger 10/22 – and work their way up. CousinCarlFan’s first rifle, and still his favorite, is his 10/22.
On Sunday, CousinCarlFan asked me if we could go shooting. It was raining and there was a severe thunderstorm alert, and I didn’t really feel like being out on the prairie with metal sticks in a thunderstorm. So I suggested we go Monday (yesterday) instead. We went yesterday morning. We headed out to a popular shooting area on BLM and state trust land west of town. We parked the car at one of the numerous pullouts in said area, walked in 20 yards or so, and set up targets. He shot his 10/22 and his Browning Buckmark, I shot my Ruger Mk III, we made a fairly serious dent in my (dwindling) stash of .22LR, and we had a good time.
When we were leaving to head back to town, I saw a man in his mid-30’s or so with a boy who looked to be about 10 or 11 and a girl who looked to be about 8 or 9. The kids were carrying small rifles, and their dad appeared to be instructing them on proper use of their rifles. I smiled at the sight of this family carrying on the tradition of the shooting sports.
Now if only I could talk CousinCarlFan into going out for the school rifle team….
Discuss on the forums here!